UPDATED: Belgium detects first case of new COVID-19 variant in Europe

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BRUSSELS, Nov 26 (Reuters) – Belgium has detected the first case of the new coronavirus variant which was first found in South Africa, a virologist said on Friday.

Marc Van Ranst, whose laboratory works closely with Belgium’s public health body Sciensano, said on Twitter that the variant was found in a traveller returning in Belgium from Egypt on Nov 11. The person developed the first symptoms on Nov. 22, the virologist said

The Belgian government brought in new restrictions on Friday such as early closing of bars and full closure of nightclubs for three weeks to reduce social contact and curb a rapidly spreading fourth wave of COVID-19 infections.

“We are confronted with a situation now that is worse than the most pessimistic view of the experts from only two weeks ago,” Belgian premier Alexander De Croo told a news conference, saying that the strain on the health service was mounting.

The new measures come just a week after a previous package of coronavirus restrictions, including enforcing wider use of masks and more working from home.

Under the new rules, Christmas markets, cultural sites, bars and restaurants will have to close at 11 p.m., with a maximum of six people per table. Private parties and gatherings are also banned, unless they are for weddings or funerals.

Photo – A woman wearing face mask waits for the tram near Atomium monument in Brussels , Belgium. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET

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